From the moment Matt Lynch walked into Six Zero Strength and Fitness, he knew it was different, and he knew it was where he needed to be.
"I haven't found someone that works this hard anywhere else but here," said Lynch, who graduated last month from Legacy High School. "This is the real deal and everyone works hard 100 percent and competing, doing more than what everyone else is doing outside of here."
Lynch, who is heading off to UCLA this spring to play quarterback for the Bruins, is one of the growing number of local football players who make routine treks to Six Zero Strength and Fitness to get better, get tougher and get prepared for the next level of football.
Watching players like Lynch succeed puts a smile on the face of Six Zero's founder, Matt McChesney. A former Colorado Buffalo and Denver Bronco, McChesney had dedicated himself to giving local high school players what he believes they desperately need.
"I'm trying to help the next generation of player, that's all," he said. "The place has exploded. It's caught on. The kids set the market. If what we were doing wasn't right, they'd know. You can't fool the kids, especially the college athlete. They're around college coaches all the time.
"These guys understand that my background has led me to this. I've turned down several college opportunities to stay here."
Most notably, McChesney was offered a chance to be a part of CU's strength and conditioning staff just one year ago. While it was difficult to turn down his alma mater, McChesney said his business is too important.
"I'm not walking away from something I built," he said, adding that the NCAA would not have allowed him to continue with Six Zero had he been hired at CU. "I can help more kids rather than just the 105 in Boulder. Now, I'm helping 500."
The facility is currently located in Centennial, but has grown so much that in March, McChesney will move into a new location that will increase his space from about 3,000 square feet to roughly 12,000.
McChesney's passion comes from giving local high school and college players a place to properly train and get better. (He also works with mixed martial arts athletes). McChesney said that 157 players who have come through Six Zero in the last five years have gone on to play in college, with another 30 going this year.
Many of the players who come through McChesney's gym get recruited by college programs, but earning a scholarship is not McChesney's goal for these kids.
"Recruiting is important, but development outweighs recruiting 100 to 1," McChesney said.
McChesney knows the recruiting game and that most — if not all — college coaches are going to tell players exactly what they want to hear just to get them to sign. Then, reality hits once those kids get on campus.
"What I'm trying to do is give them the dose of reality up front," McChesney said. "I'm very truthful with these kids."
That's why McChesney is so dedicated to any athlete who shows up ready to work hard and get better. Those players are considered part of McChesney's "Dungeon Family."
"If you're part of the Dungeon Family in this bubble, you're going to have a lot of support from the players and you're going to have unwavering support from me," he said.
Many of the players keep coming back. In fact, roughly 20 current CU players continue to use the Six Zero facility during their breaks. Lineman Stephane Nembot, who recently finished his senior year at CU, is training at Six Zero to get ready for a potential NFL career.
"The mentality it gets you in, the shape it gets you in," CU redshirt freshman Frank Umu said of why he has been coming to Six Zero for two years. "It gets you mature enough to get into a college setting."
Workouts at Six Zero aren't typical of what the players are getting anywhere else.
Under the direction of former strength coach Dave Forman — who was fired last month — CU's program was based heavily on the science of working out. Buffs offensive lineman Dillon Middlemiss, a redshirt freshman from Pomona High School, said Six Zero is simply about the work.
"With Forman there was more of a science behind it," Middlemiss said. "With Matt, it's more you have to get in and do the work. Get your work in. It's quite a different scene here."
It's a scene that, at any given point during the day, could include high school or college players. McChesney isn't strapping any scientific equipment to anybody. The gym is loaded with weights — all of which have clearly been put to good use — ropes, tires and whatever else is needed to toughen up anyone who walks in.
"Pushing that sled 30 times tells me if the kid is going to quit or not," McChesney said. "At some point, eye test (is more important than science). Is the kid bigger and stronger and faster and is he the kind of personality that you need to build a foundation to be successful?"
Focus on work
To get players to be successful, McChesney uses a no-nonsense, no-excuses, no-sugar coating approach. Players say he's honest with them, he's tough on them and he gets them to work.
"The uncompromising approach that I've had since Day One, I've never wavered, and it's led me to the point I'm at now," McChesney said. "It's just going to get better and better. I'm excited about the future. The guys that decide to work here and be a part of this place and take my guidance for what it's worth, they tend to do a pretty good job. It's not consistent with everybody, but we try to help as many guys as possible."
McChesney is as proud as any former Buff could be — his company's logo is even done in CU colors — but his loyalty doesn't reside in Boulder. His loyalty resides with the players who walk in his doors and with the colleges who invest in McChesney's pupils.
"The mentality of this place, there's no weakness here," Middlemiss said. "There's just no room for weakness."
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.